The stock broking industry has turned utterly competitive these days. Many brokers offer commission-free trades for common assets. However, as an investor, you can still find visible differences in trading technology, account features, and usability while evaluating various stockbroking platforms.
It doesn’t matter if you have just got your hands dirty with investments or you are already one of those dedicated and active traders. Selecting the right online stock broker is imperative. Here comes the challenge! The fierce competition of commission-free trades has brought down the costs of services, but it raised the demand for online brokers.
Every day a new firm enters the space, expecting to capitalize on the surge in retail investors. Naturally, it makes things harder for investors. The job of picking up suitable stock brokers starts to look daunting and tiresome. To make your job easy, we have done much of the work!
In this guide, we have talked about the best online stock brokers. We have comprehensively reviewed their services. After performing hands-on research, we have penned down every little piece of information that can help you improve your trading and investment experiences.
Top Picks For Stock Brokers 
- Merrill Edge – Overall Best Stock Brokerage And Services, Editor’s Pick
- TD Ameritrade – Top Pick For Online Brokerage & Mobile Trading
- SoFi – Most Recommended For Cost-Conscious Traders/Investors
- Robinhood – Best Stock Broker Option For On Trading
- E*TRADE – Perfect Stock Broker For Convenient Trading
#1. Merrill Edge – Overall Best Stock Brokerage And Services, Editor’s Pick
Owned by Bank of America, Merrill Edge offers access to advice and online investing, brokerage, banking services, and trading. This financial platform allows its customers to work with advisors, self-direct, or access portfolio management using Merrill Edge guided investing. The platform was launched in 2010, and it’s highly appreciated because of its convenience. It lets investors manage their investments and banking activities in an integrated way.
Presently, there are a total of 2800 Merrill Edge investment centers. Among them, 600 centers have been inaugurated recently. Besides, the platform also boasts a team of 300 financial solutions advisors. Getting started with Merril Edge is pretty simple. Moreover, things will look easier if you are a Bank of America customer.
Just by logging onto the official website of Merrill Edge, you can check your portfolio performances and balances. You can also check the market updates. Different tabs with easy visibility let you find resources and tools easily. In addition, you can launch the Market Pro platform using the trade tab to avail real-time news and quotes.
The Market Pro and Merrill Edge mobile apps are available for Android and iOS. These apps let you create, manage, and monitor new watchlists, and you can share them and save them to your local devices. Additionally, you can also find charting and research in both apps. Besides, they let you overlay various technical indicators and drawing tools.
Merrill Edge is ideal for passive investors and active traders. Merrill Edge’s comprehensive platform renders an enjoyable and smooth banking/investing experience. Their strong in-person customer support comes as the icing on the cake.
Uses smart order router: Merrill Edge uses the Bank of America Merrill Lynch – an intelligent order router that tracks reserve and displayed liquidity at visible and hidden venues. When orders become unmarketable, the router immediately publishes residual quantities across multiple venues. In addition, it also redistributes the published share quantities dynamically when executions kick in. The technology aims to fill an order depending on its price improvement instead of its execution speed, making way to count worthy savings on market orders. Besides, Merrill Edge never encourages payment for order flow from market makers.
Excellent fundamental research tools: Merrill Edge has a number of well-performing basic research and trading tools. They include a jaw-dropping collection of stock rankings and proprietary and third-party research. Using these tools, you can generate trade ideas, calculate personal finance and filter bonds. You can also get security fundamentals, no transaction fee funds, portfolio assets, etc. You can even create your own stock screeners with metrics like price, dividend yield, institutional ownership, market cap, etc.
Steady mobile trading experience: Though the Merrill Edge mobile app has limited features for customization, it boasts almost all the tools and resources of the desktop platform. You can also filter news feeds. Besides, the watchlists that you create using the web platform are sent to the mobile app, making things convenient on the go.
Justified fees: The fee structure of Merrill Edge is pretty much justified. It doesn’t charge any fee for stock trading and options trading. For contracts, it levies a charge of $.65 per contract. Besides, the ETF trades have no account minimums.
- Zero fees and zero minimums for self-directed accounts
- Offers lucrative reward programs for Bank of America customers
- Integrated with Bank of America
- Offers seamless investing and trading experience
- Limited product lineup
- The platform capabilities lack extensiveness
#2. TD Ameritrade – Top Pick For Online Brokerage & Mobile Trading
TD Ameritrade has everything that defines a full-service online broker. It has top-notch educational programming, zero trading commissions, a convenient mobile app, and multiple trading platforms. If you are a beginner and looking for an online broker that helps you learn the ropes, you can bet on TD Ameritrade. On the other hand, TD Ameritrade could be an excellent choice for advanced traders who deal with an array of asset classes.
Despite being acquired by Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade still operates as a separate entity. Beginners can learn how to trade stocks by leveraging its unparalleled educational programming, while its extensive investment selections make the broker capable of handling the requirements of pro traders. Its full range of products includes forex, crypto, mutual funds, bonds, ETFs, stocks, and options contracts.
As one of the largest online brokers in the United States, TD Ameritrade offers access to multiple platforms for catering to the needs of various expertise levels. Be it active trading or passive; investors can leverage the intuitive and easy-to-use mobile app and web-based platforms. On the other hand, the day traders and the casual traders can be on the powerful Thinkorswim platform. It offers vast screening capabilities, advanced analytics, and charting tools.
TD Ameritrade offers a seamless customer experience with its innovative and easy-to-navigate platforms. By putting the user at the center of the design, the broker allows them to optimize their experience. The web, mobile apps, and Thinkorswim – everything is incredibly customizable. Naturally, it allows you to trade according to your individualistic interest.
The web comes with a docking tool. The docking tool appears on the right side of the screen when you navigate through the site on the left. You can typically select between 13 different modules. They include streaming content, bookmarks, etc.
Easy trading: The web platform of TD Ameritrade has made trading easy. All you need to do is type in a ticker symbol and enter their orders. Except for fixed income products, the web platform and the mobile app work with the same asset classes. Besides, they support the same type of orders. Thinkorswim at TD Ameritrade web also lets users set triggers depending on price movements.
Easy selection of stocks: Typically, choosing a good stock doesn’t seem easy. In fact, sometimes it looks overwhelming as the choice of companies is extensive. With TD Ameritrade’s stock screeners, you can find them in the ‘research and ideas’ section of their web platform. These screeners allow you to create your own screens. You can find an extensive range of parameters like sector, market capitalization, etc. However, this section may be a little challenging to navigate if you have just started with stocks.
Extensive offerings: TD Ameritrade offers a comprehensive range of assets on both mobile apps and web platforms. You can access assets like futures, cryptos, stocks, and options. Among its 13,000 mutual funds offers, 3689 are zero transaction fee funds. The platform also deals with multi-leg and single-leg option contracts, penny stocks, bonds, and bitcoin futures.
Various order types: If you are a TD Ameritrade client, you can enter an extensive range of order types using all their platforms. The stop limit and trailing stops are enabled across the broker’s different platforms. However, conditional orders and simultaneous multiple orders are accessible only from the desktop trading platform or Thinkorswim platform. You can also choose a particular tax lot while placing your orders.
- Functional mobile application and web platform
- An array of web trading platforms and investment choices that cater to the need of both beginner and pro investors and traders
- A satisfactory score in terms of usability
- Offers functional accounts and research abilities
- Doesn’t work with fractional shares
- Doesn’t offer an automatic swipe of uninvested cash into a money market fund
#3. SoFi– Most Recommended For Cost-Conscious Traders/Investors
If you are looking for an AI-driven advisor with low costs, SoFi automated investing can be an excellent choice. SoFi doesn’t claim any annual management fees. In addition, the portfolios are made with low-cost ETFs. The platform doesn’t pay a lot of attention to big bucks. You can start with just $1!
The robo advisor also gives you free access to certified financial planners. You can use them to get help with questions that arise while proceeding with stock and ETF trading. Getting started with a SoFi automated investing account is super easy. You will need to answer a few questions related to your investment goals. The questionnaire will also include the time when you need the money and a declaration about your preferred model portfolios. The five options are conservative, moderate, moderately conservative, moderately aggressive, and aggressive.
The entire thing takes just a few minutes, and if required, you can edit your model portfolio by going back. Once you finish the setup, you will see a prompt asking for fund transfers. Here, you will need to connect your account to your bank account. Instant verification is available for completing this step, and you will need to set up a recurring deposit. You can also choose to make a one-time deposit.
Whatever you invest, your money will be displayed in your portfolio when it arrives at the account. Though you can’t get a cash management account with SoFi, you can always open one on the SoFi website. This helps you move money between your accounts rapidly and conveniently.
Flexible fee structure: The best part of using this robo advisor is that you don’t need to pay any management fee. Besides, the account fees are also nominal – $75 for transferring out.
Excellent customer service: SoFi is one of those interactive brokers that offers trustworthy customer service. You can reach out to the SoFi team over the phone and chat from 8 AM to 10 PM (Monday to Thursday) and 8 AM to 8 PM (Friday to Sunday)
Membership benefits: When you become a SoFi member, you gain access to a few attractive benefits. They include career coaching, reduced rates on SoFi loans, local networking events, etc. To receive these benefits, it is not mandatory to use automated investing. When you are a SoFi member and use any of its many financial services, you can access the given benefits.
Various account types: SoFi offers various account types, adding to its versatility. The types include Roth IRA, SEP IRA, Rollover IRAs, individual and joint taxable, and traditional IRA.
- Commission-free trading, automatic rebalancing, and low-cost transfers
- Easy to use
- Great rewards
- Beginner-friendly trading options
- Doesn’t offer any socially responsible investing option
- Creates room for conflict of interest
#4. Robinhood – Best Stock Broker Option For On Trading
Robinhood has seen fast growth in the past few years. Its appealing features like free trades on cryptos, options, and stocks attracted both well-heeled and beginner investors. This online trading platform offers fractional shares for dividend reinvestments and purchases. It has an easy-to-use mobile interface and affordable margin loans through its Robinhood Gold program.
These beneficial features help balance its few limitations like limited account types and lack of mutual funds. Its mobile app is pretty intuitive, making Robinhood an excellent choice for mobile trading. The application is utterly streamlined and easy to navigate. Once you get accustomed to the icons function of the app, you can change screens, investigate stocks, and place orders rapidly.
Using Robinhood, you can also place different order types like stop orders, market orders, and limit orders. Apart from placing trades, Robinhood’s mobile application allows you to move around the app quickly. You can easily find your account value and portfolio. Besides, you can access several account management options.
When the platform was in its seed stage, it stood out as a disruptor in the brokerage sphere. Its competitive advantages included commission-free trading for options, stocks, and even cryptos. However, this edge has turned neutral recently as most contemporary online stock trading platforms are working with zero commissions.
Robinhood recently introduced cash management services to attract fresh customers and strengthen the financial bonds with the existing ones. Despite its exponential growth in recent years, the success has brought a lot of stringent tastes to the company. Last year, the platform witnessed huge criticism for international trading restrictions in a volatile market. It created a conflict of interest and spurred class-action lawsuits, which caught the attention of politicians. The latest addition of Robinhood is its brand new noncustodial WEB3 wallet.
Fractional shares: Robinhood allows you to deal with fractional shares. You can buy or reinvest your dividends. The best part is that you can start placing a trade with just $1. In addition, you can purchase just one-millionth of a share. The platform also enhances this feature to stocks, which are not showcased in partial share programs of other online stock trading platforms.
Quick funding: Robinhood is unique when it comes to funding. It puts some money into your account rapidly. Besides, it uses instant verification, which helps you avoid the hassle of formal verification processes. Due to this reason, using this app, you can instantly move up to $1000 off any deposit into the account. The rest you can transfer within a few days. Naturally, it makes things easier and faster.
Zero account minimum: Robinhood’s investor-friendly cred offers a no minimum account feature, making funding even more lucrative. It helps you save time because you can move the cash as soon as you open the account.
The Gold program: Leveraging the Gold program offered by Robinhood, you can buy securities with margin or borrowed money. It provides research on 1700+ companies from Nasdaq level II quotes and more. The subscription charge for the Gold program is $5, which includes the interest on your first $1000 borrowing. The annual interest rate is 2.5%, making it unbelievably affordable. You need to pay the interest every 30 days. The best part is that it will roll into your margin balance when you don’t have adequate cash to account for paying the monthly fee.
- Easy to use
- Good for options trading, cash management, and recurring investments
- Notably, low trading costs
- Access to financial shares
- Cryptocurrency offerings
- Limited range of investment options
- Payment for order flow lacks transparency
#5. E*TRADE – Perfect Stock Broker For Convenient Trading
E*TRADE started its journey in October 2019. It caught the limelight as a growing online broker who joined the commission-free trading revolution. From ETFs and stock to options trading, E*TRADE has a range of offerings. It works with three downloadable platforms and two mobile applications. Due to this reason, it has turned into one of the best trading platforms for passive investors and casual traders.
Besides being intuitive and convenient, E*TRADE boasts an extensive range of powerful features like screeners, research, and news. From beginners to advanced traders, E*TRADE remains a well-rounded pick. Its account minimum is $0. The platform dropped its $6.95 trade commission to $0 for options, ETFs, and online stocks.
However, options traders may carry a contract charge of $.65. For everyday investors and traders, the rate includes a discount and becomes $.50. E*Trade lets you access around 4300 mutual funds with zero transaction fees. The funds will cost you $19.99 per transaction.
With E*TRADE, you can find an updated list of trending mutual funds, which include the top ETFs and no-load funds. Though the platform can’t purchase or trade cryptos, it provides access to crypto products like cryptocurrency unit trusts and bitcoin futures.
Caters to everyone: With E*TRADE’s mobile app and web platform of E*TRADE, you can access real-time quotes, exchange-traded funds screeners, real-time quotes, and market commentary. Active investors can also use customizable options chain views, drawing tools, trading ladders, and many other features that facilitate complex strategies.
Innovative mobile trading experience: E*TRADE’s innovation in mobile trading is neverending. Its award-winning mobile application allows you to connect with markets from anywhere. It boasts market research, portfolio management, watchlists, and more. In addition, the mobile apps of E*TRADE (E*TRADE mobile and Power E*TRADE mobile) come with ultra satisfactory customization options. You can personalize them according to your preferred method of communicating with the platform.
Extensive offerings: With E*TRADE, you can access various assets. The list includes bonds, commodities, stocks, futures, etc. It works with fractional shares, single and multi-leg options contracts, and short and long stocks. Besides, the platform has an integrated robo adviser.
Commendable support: The support options of E*TRADE are toplined. The platform gives you access to webinars on technical analysis and diversification. You can also cultivate your options trading knowledge base. Moreover, you can also attain online investing courses at Morningstar. These courses introduce you to many meaningful topics, a thematic investing section, and much more.
- Extensive investment choices
- Avant-garde mobile applications
- Extensive knowledge base
- World-class customer support
- Convenient tools
- A slightly difficult-to-navigate website
- Options trading is a bit expensive for occasional traders
Factors to Consider While Choosing the Best Online Brokers
When it comes to profitable investing, picking up reliable online brokerage firms is crucial. Remember that your chosen brokerage services should align with your educational needs and investment goals.
So, to select the best web trading platform, you should essentially check for a few factors. Granted, investment returns are never guaranteed. However, there’s always a way to level yourself up for success. Choosing the best stock broker helps you with this. Therefore, carefully check out the following factors so you can always pick up the best stock broker effortlessly.
- Figure Out Your Investing Goals
What has dragged you to investments? Is it about improving your standard of living? Do you want to make investments your primary channel of income? Are you investing because you want to secure your retirement? Are you saving for any specific occasion?
Try finding out the answers to these questions. Besides, figure out how far you can go to make your investing ventures successful. Remember, these answers can’t be wrong; you just need to be honest with yourself. Anticipating your goals and wants for your entire life won’t take you anywhere. Simply believe in your present situation and assess your abilities well.
- Check for Protection
Before proceeding with investments, double-check what your brokerage firm offers you in terms of loss reimbursements. It’s an inevitable fact that investments involve risk. Thus, you must take precautions to protect your money.
- Know About the Fees
New investors typically pay more attention to other things than fees. However, ideally, you should know how much you need to pay to use different brokerage firms. The goal is to lose as little of your returns as possible. Thus, check trading commissions, account fees, payment for order flow, etc., to understand how pricey your online stock broker is.
- Hidden Costs
While choosing your brokerage account, you should carefully check if the stock broker is implementing any hidden costs. Remember, the cost is not the determiner of quality when it comes to stock broking. Thus, throw off the misconception that if it’s pricey, it will be good. Instead, tally everything minutely before making the decision. Thoroughly check for account fees, pricing and execution, options contract fees, commissions, and account minimum.
- Track Record and Verified Customer Reviews
Both new brokers and old players have a track record. Don’t forget to check on this factor while getting your hands dirty with investments. It’s essential to ensure that your chosen online stock brokers are Securities and Exchange Commission regulated. Besides, they should be members of a self-regulatory body. This helps minimize the chances of complications. In addition, you should also check the verified customer reviews to understand the performance and reliability of your chosen firm.
How We Made the List
To draft this guide, we have carried out in-depth market research. We analyzed the stock broking data from reliable sources, and based on it, we created a list of the most popular stock brokers. Then, we set several stringent fact-checks to determine the service providers’ quality and reliability. We also tested brokers along different criteria, and to carry out those tests, we used real money and real accounts.
While attempting the evaluation, we immediately removed those brokers who failed to meet our threshold. This way, we finally got those who deserve mention in the list of the best stock brokers.
What We Looked For
While setting up the selection standards, we have closely observed the following parameters.
You will find a wide range of brokers in the stock broking sphere. While some have been around for decades, others are comparatively new to the scene. However, for stock broking, the existence span alone is insufficient to determine the broker’s reliability. A reliable stock broker will always have adequate cash on hand, guaranteeing that their clients’ trades would go through. Even the stock market regulators look for this guarantee.
A good online stock broker will always have fair fees, and we have kept this factor in mind while preparing this guide. We have carefully evaluated the fees they charge in terms of commissions, withdrawal fees, and inactivity fees. Additionally, we only picked up those who are pretty transparent about their fee module and don’t levy any hidden charge on their clients.
The US stock market has two regulatory organizations – FINRA and SIPC. FINRA or Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is a self-regulatory organization for broker-dealers in the United States. FINRA ensures that its members abide by the rules of fair practice. On the other hand, SIPC, or Securities Investor Protection Corporation, aims to protect investors who have kept their securities or money in a brokerage account when the broker goes bankrupt. All the trading platforms we have picked up are FINRA and SIPC regulated, making your way to secured trading and investments.
- Broker resources
While picking up the online brokers, we have considered factors like the research tools offered by the brokers and the kind of advice they provide. We also evaluated the quality of their digital trading app and their efficiency in placing reliable and quick trades.
- Customer support
We understand that being sensitive to money matters is natural. Therefore, while making the list of the best online trading platforms, we have chosen the ones that offer responsive and trustworthy customer service.
FAQs About Stock Brokers
Q1. What Are the Types of Stock Brokers?
Stock brokers can be of three primary types – discount brokers, full-service brokers, and robo advisors.
Q2. How to Choose the Best Online Broker?
You can pick the best online broker by assessing its reliability, fees, offerings, customer reviews, etc. Check out our list under factors to consider when choosing the best and what we looked out for when making the list.
Q3. What’s the Difference Between Full-Service Brokers and Discount Brokers?
Full-service brokers provide routine recommendations and advice, while discount brokers leave you to take your call. Typically, the cost of full-service brokers is pretty high compared to discount brokers. For new investors, discount brokers are a better option for their cost-efficient approach.
Q4. How to Know if Your Stock Broker Is Good for Mutual Funds?
While beginners may find the job a bit tricky, seasoned investors can understand the effectiveness of a stock broker in terms of mutual funds by assessing their applications and websites. Look for the schemes they are offering to make an informed decision.
Q5. How Does a Stock Broker Earn Compensation?
A stock broker may earn compensation through fees, compensations, payments for order flows, etc.
Conclusion : Stock Brokers For You!
Now that you know almost everything about getting an online brokerage account, pick your broker carefully. Remember, when you hold the hand of reliable stock brokers, you earn more knowledge. Besides, while handling your online brokerage account, you learn the golden secrets of investments that help you get the key to fat returns. Investing is not a game of fortune; it’s the best of knowledge and experience. Learn more and earn more!